San Diego Chargers: Iongi's Food For Thought on Week 5

Heneli IongiAnalyst IOctober 14, 2010

San Diego Chargers: Iongi's Food For Thought on Week 5

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    Ryan Mathews carries the ball.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    It has been a rather interesting week after a crushing loss to the Raiders.  I find it rather amusing that with the multiple problems the Chargers have in special teams coverage, we're going straight into a offseason-like mode where we're releasing people and adding players left and right.  All of this because of horrible special teams play.  

    Oh well, there is a lot of things to talk about so I won't "lolli-gag" around with you folks while we look at some of the issues and progression of where the Chargers are after Week 5.  

Wasn't I Right On The Spot Of My Assessment Of The Special Teams

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    Both Eric Weddle and Antwan Barnes looking to play together on the same field this season.Jacob de Golish/Getty Images

    Earlier this week, I wrote a article on the Chargers lack of special teams.  I wrote about the only way for the Chargers to fix this problem is to bring in more LB's from free agency that not only can play special teams, but also fit the defensive scheme the Chargers run.  

    The player the Chargers picked up was former Ravens OLB Antwan Barnes, who was recently released by the Eagles.  It is however fitting that Barnes was the very same player that intercepted a pass from Philip Rivers last season when the Ravens came into town to play the Chargers.  

    Barnes not only upgrades the special teams, but he also adds "major" depth to a already banged up group of OLB's.  Barnes is taking over for the roster spot of OLB Shawne Merriman, who was recently put on IR.  

    Another player added to help the special teams coverage can be found in the Chargers fifth long snapper.  That's right.  The Chargers' fifth long snapper.  You know why he's a big deal?  Because he's another coverage guy on the punt coverage team.  He may not be a linebacker, but he's built like one as he's 6'2", 250 lbs. and is only 24 years old .  The long snapper he's replacing is 6'5", 260 lbs., that's not a bad build, but Ethan Albright is 39 years old and he was proven to be a hindrance in the Chargers punt team coverage.  

    The Chargers added WR Richard Goodman to not only improve the special teams coverage on the outside, but also add depth to a very fragile WR corp that has hurt players.  

    Thus far, I believe the special teams coverage will be just fine as it looks to have improved.  No other team is better to test the special teams coverage against than the St. Louis Rams this upcoming Sunday in Week 6.

Shawne Merriman Wasn't Released For Injury Reasons

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    Shawne Merriman now will be considered a former Charger after being placed on IR.Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Shawne Merriman was never released due to his injury, lack of playing time, or lack of being healthy.  I believe that AJ Smith and the Chargers wanted to keep him for the season and give him every opportunity to show what he can do.  

    The very reason for why Merriman was ever put on IR, and supposedly rumored to get released after, is largely due to the huge hit on the Chargers LB's corp lack of being healthy.  With the LB's corps taking a hit in injuries, it has a direct impact on the Chargers special teams that had been sorely lacking.  The Chargers can't afford to keep Merriman, while trying to get back to 100 percent, while they have terrible special teams play that arguably cost the Chargers three games. 

    The Chargers already have James Holt, Jyles Tucker and Donald Butler on the season-ending IR list.  Then you have Larry English, Brandon Siler and Stephen Cooper missing a couple of games due to injury.  That's six out of the 10 LB's that made the active roster heading into the season being out or injured.  That's insane!  

    If the Chargers LB's corps didn't take a hit with many injuries, the Chargers would have kept Merriman so they can see a full assessment if the 26-year-old OLB can still contribute.  The last thing the Chargers wanted to do was release Merriman without knowing whether he would have been as dominant as he has been in the past if he was nursed to full health.  The Chargers can't take that chance on nursing him while the special teams struggle, which hurt them in three losses.

    As expected, the Chargers signed a OLB and a quality one at that as Antwan Barnes is a very physical OLB.  He isn't what Merriman was back in the day, but Barnes does come from the Ravens 3-4 defense.  

Chargers Making The Right Moves On Taking Their Time With Ryan Mathews' Injury

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    Ryan Mathews nursing minor sore ankle.Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    I've been hearing a lot of Chargers' fans talking about rushing Ryan Mathews back into the starting lineup.  Let me be the first to tell you, that's just absolutely crazy talk.  

    Why should the Chargers bring in Ryan Mathews at 80-90 percent healthy when Mike Tolbert is 110 percent ready to go?  If Tolbert was struggling, then I could see the rush to get Mathews back on the field but the Chargers are doing the right thing.  

    Tolbert had a pretty bad game against the Raiders.  That being said, was he bad in the other four games?  Absolutely not.  The Chargers are giving Mathews some touches.  Their giving Mathews enough touches to have a small but very contributing impact on the offense.  

    Remember, it's still a very long season.  The Chargers have 11 more games left to go.  Do you really want to start Mathews right away?  No.  Especially if the Chargers have a shot at going into the postseason.  

    If the Chargers want to give Mathews some carries, I would want to see them give Mathews more touches in the redzone instead of when they're driving down the field. 

    Besides, it's not the running game that's killing the Chargers, it's special teams.  

Marcus McNeil's Back, What Happens to Brandyn Dombrowski?

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    Marcus McNeil is back to protect the blind-side.Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    So RFA Marcus McNeil just signed a long-term contract with the Chargers, a week after he just signed his tender. Heading into Week 6, he's rumored to start against the Rams.  I can't find the Chargers not starting McNeil against the Rams especially since their going to pay him that much money.  

    I tell you what though, the Chargers and AJ Smith did a great job at getting McNeil signed for the amount of money he's getting as other tackles in the league are getting far more.  

    So with McNeil back on the field, what does that mean?  

    The Chargers will have their full 2009 offensive line back.  That also means that the Chargers will have arguably the most depth in their offensive line than any team in the league.  With McNeil supposedly starting, Brandyn Dombrowski will take the back-up role.  That puts the Chargers having Ty Green, Brandyn Dombrowski and Scott Mrcuzkowski as the back-up plays.  All of them give the Chargers tons of versatility for anyone along the line that might get injured.  

    There is rumor that Dombrowski might take over Jeromey Clary's RT position but that's still yet to be seen.  One thing is for sure, Dombrowski played at a elite level while starting as the LT.  I have to give it to Dombrowski for doing a absolutely great job.  Clary has struggled a bit over the years, but he's been average at best.  It would be great to see Dombrowski play at RT especially after having lots of experience in it last season.

Play By Patrick Crayton and Randy McMichael May Be Relied on In Passing Game

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    Randy McMichael may be in for a big game w/ Antonio Gates in passing game.Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    The Chargers may go into St. Louis with neither WR Legedu Naanee or WR Buster Davis.  That means the Chargers will possibly go into St. Louis with Malcom Floyd, Patrick Crayton and Richard Goodman.  That's it.  Or at least that's the only WR's I see on the Chargers roster thus far if Naanee and Davis don't play.

    I do believe the Chargers will pound the hell out of the Rams defense with a heavy dose of the running game but if that doesn't work, the passing game will be relied on.

    I don't see the Rams stopping the Chargers passing attack either but if it does come down to that, the Rams already know what's coming.  They saw what Antonio Gates and Floyd can do against the Raiders and everyone else in the passing game.  My logical guess would be is that the Rams will roll coverage towards those players, so I have to assume that other players will have to step it up as they will have the favorable match-up.

    I believe the players that will be the guys to get targeted will be Randy McMichael and Patrick Crayton.  Both McMichael and Crayton have been on the team long enough to know the playbook.  Also, Crayton will be facing a lot of one-on-one.  McMichael will be facing minimum opposition on defense, while Floyd and Gates will be having the full attention of the Rams defense.  

    The reason why I said that McMichael and Crayton will get lots of opportunities is that if both Naanee and Davis don't play next week, they'll get their chance as Philip Rivers had no one to pass to except Davis and Crayton against the Raiders towards the end of the game.  Rivers had to pass to those players as both Floyd and Gates were facing double coverage a lot towards the end of the game.  

    I don't believe one bit that the Rams are as good as the Raiders pass defense, which wasn't very good against Rivers.  So really, Crayton and McMichael will have their opportunity to contribute if the running game don't show up against the Rams this upcoming Week 6 match-up.

In Conclusion...

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    HC Norv Turner looking to turn the season around after a slow start, for the fourth time.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    The Chargers are 2-3.  They are probably the best 2-3 team in the entire NFL.  The Chargers' problem is only special teams.  That's it.  I don't see anyone besting the Chargers on offense or on defense.  The Chargers should get their first road win against the Rams but you never know, special teams may kill the Chargers game again.  

    I tell you what though, the Chargers are moving in the right direction.  They made a good decision in not overreacting and firing their special teams coach Steve Crosby.  Crosby has done a great job in the past and this ain't his fault.  

    Injuries are a part of the game and it's something that every team goes through.  

    I tell you what though, I'd rather have the Chargers endure these issues and work through the kinks now rather than later in the season.  Facing adversity is something the Chargers should face as they sometimes take for granted being a very talented team.  I see them being hungry this weekend against the Rams.  

    For all those that's jumping on Norv Turner, you folks need to take a chill pill.  Turner has done nothing more than a great job during his time in San Diego.  This is his best team that he ever has as it finally fits his scheme and philosophy.  This ain't the Marty Schottenheimer team and Turner ain't going to win games with Schottenheimer's team.  Schottenheimer's team was one dimensional.  Turner's team isn't.  AJ Smith and Turner is doing a outstanding job as they just assess the problem and move forward.  That's how the Chargers taken care of business in the last three years.  32-16 isn't a bad record for Turner during his time as a head coach in San Diego.  

    Thanks for the read folks as these are just some food for thought, something to think about as we move forward in this season.